The Information


A Warning on the Dangers of Ephemeral Messaging

Facebook’s decision to move toward end-to-end encryption and “secure data storage” is the right call. It is necessary. With this decision, company executives will be on the right side of history, as I will explain more below.

The decision to more deeply embrace ephemerality as part of the future of their “privacy” strategy is, however, a mistake.  


Three Reasons Behind Airbnb’s Deal for HotelTonight

Airbnb for the past year has talked about its intentions to expand its presence in hotel bookings. On Thursday, the company made it official, acquiring HotelTonight for what a person familiar with the matter said was more than $465 million. The deal takes Airbnb’s rivalry with Booking.com to a new level, and offers Airbnb a new outlet for growth ahead of an expected IPO in 2020.

But there are also risks for Airbnb as it seeks to sustain its unique brand and integrate HotelTonight, which had more than $200 million in revenue last year compared with Airbnb’s more than $3.5 billion. Why did Airbnb pull the trigger now?


Tidy Guru Marie Kondo in VC Talks About Expansion

Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru whose advice on cleaning up has made her a household name, is looking to take the next step. Her company, KonMari, has held early talks with venture firms about potentially raising up to $40 million for new business opportunities, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.

A spokesperson for the company, Rebecca Prusinowski, confirmed that KonMari was meeting with investors but denied that the firm was fundraising. Instead, she said, the talks are meant to find investors who are “the right fit” for the company.


Facing 5G Threat, Cable Scrambles to Fix Wi-Fi

The cable industry’s biggest lobbying group fired a shot across the hood of the auto industry last month. It urged the Federal Communications Commission to strip a large swath of airwaves from auto makers—who are supposed to use them to make car travel safer—and instead use the spectrum to relieve the growing congestion on beleaguered Wi-Fi networks.  

The request—opposed by the automakers—is the latest example of the cable industry’s increasingly desperate lobbying campaign to get more airwaves for Wi-Fi networks, overloaded by video streaming and devices like Amazon’s Echo. Cable is part of a broader tech industry campaign to get more spectrum that can be used for Wi-Fi. That effort includes Apple, Google, Cisco and Broadcom and others that sell digital devices in the home and the equipment that enables them.


Lyft CEO Juggles Growth Ambitions With Social Ideals

As an environmentally minded college student in California, Logan Green led a campaign to raise campus parking rates to discourage driving. Some 15 years later, as CEO of Lyft, Mr. Green has continued to promote the idea of reducing automobile ownership. “It’s time to redesign our cities around people, not cars,” he and Lyft co-founder John Zimmer wrote in a letter to investors unveiling the company’s IPO plans.

Yet as the company prepares to go public, Lyft’s attempt to nurture its image as a force for positive social change hasn’t always been in sync with its impact on the ground. A growing body of evidence suggests ride hailing has added to traffic congestion and reduced public transit use in some places.


Reading Between the Lines of Zuckerberg’s Facebook Privacy Manifesto

In a 3,200-word essay on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a plan for the social network to become a “simpler platform that’s focused on privacy first.” It sounded like a momentous shift for the company, which has been pilloried for the past several years over its ravenous appetite for personal data.

But is Facebook really changing its stripes? Mr. Zuckerberg outlined a number of actions that he suggested would turn Facebook from the digital equivalent of a town square into something more like a living room. They included moves that will give users more control over how long photos and other items linger on the social network. Facebook will make its various messaging services interconnect with each other and in a more secure way. There is cause to be skeptical of the company’s plans though.


Facebook’s Decentralization Dilemma

A great irony is emerging in crypto. Two of the world’s largest corporations, Facebook and JPMorgan, are now in the vanguard of adopting a technology that was designed partially to subvert the power of institutions. Just weeks after JPMorgan announced it was launching its own cryptocurrency, the New York Times reported new details about Facebook’s expected launch of a digital token that people could use to transfer funds without having to go through the banking system.

Below, we discuss how Facebook’s choices around how much control to retain over its cryptocurrency could affect the industry as a whole—will it compete with existing blockchains? Plus, we take a look at how a partnership between Coinbase and Circle could soon evolve to include security tokens.


China’s ByteDance Plans Slack Rival Even as Losses Mount

In 2017 ByteDance, owner of such popular apps as newsfeed service Toutiao, made a slim profit. Last year, after the costly launch of its video app TikTok outside of China, the company lost $1.2 billion, The Information has learned. Results of the expansion were mixed: TikTok has become widely used in India but not in the U.S., according to previously unreported data.

Despite the heavy loss, ByteDance is planning an even more ambitious expansion. It is quietly laying the groundwork to launch a work collaboration and productivity app in the U.S. and other overseas markets, people familiar with the matter said. The move poses a potential challenge to the likes of Slack, Microsoft and Google.


Netflix’s Price Increase History Shows Service’s Resilience

Netflix has raised the price of its most popular streaming plan by 63% in the past eight years without suffering any meaningful pushback from subscribers. In fact, an analysis by The Information of its quarterly results shows growth has temporarily spiked after two of the price increases—the opposite of what would be expected.

That suggests Netflix has the power to continue raising prices without tamping down on subscriber growth, at least for a while. That’s good news for investors worried about the company’s long-term sustainability. But as Netflix gets more expensive, subscribers are likely to scrutinize the value of its programming more closely—particularly as competing offerings from companies such as Disney launch later this year.


Two Top Policy Executives Departing Lime

The two top executives leading policy and government relations at scooter startup Lime are leaving, less than a year after they joined. The departures add to the turnover at the fast-growing company as it faces mounting safety problems and a need to win approval to expand into new cities.

The two executives were big hires for two-year-old Lime last year: Scott Kubly, a former transportation chief in Seattle and Chicago, became Lime’s chief programs officer last March and has led its car-sharing program in Seattle and government relations strategy. Emily Castor Warren, a longtime Lyft policy executive, joined Lime last June as senior director of policy and public affairs, focusing on winning Lime friends in local and state governments.


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This role offers the chance to have complete end-to-end responsibility for how we communicate with potential and new subscribers using a combination of traditional and innovative online strategies. It also involves participating in all facets of marketing and the opportunity to run a bigger team as we grow.

Now five years old, The Information has established itself as the go-to source for hard-hitting, in-depth coverage of the technology industry. Our team is passionate about the future of the media business and has access to some of the most interesting people in technology. The successful candidate will be passionate about the news industry and be excited to work alongside great reporters and strategists every day.


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BlackBerry Not Becoming a ‘Patent Troll,’ Says CEO

BlackBerry, which became a household name in the early 2000s for its ubiquituous email devices, is one of the more infamous examples of a pioneer left behind by technological change. Its slide was so pronounced that, as CEO John Chen said in an interview, “Five years ago, you would have thought the company was dead and bankrupt.” Instead, he said, “We’re still here kicking and alive.”

Mr. Chen showed just how alive when it completed a $1.4 billion cash acquisition of Cylance, a company that uses machine learning to prevent cyberattacks on devices, two weeks ago. The deal was the culmination of Mr. Chen’s strategy over the past six years to reinvent BlackBerry as an enterprise software company with a special focus on cybersecurity. BlackBerry has also turned to a more controversial tactic—suing companies for patent infringement—which could give its increasingly important patent licensing business a boost. Last week it sued Twitter for allegedly violating a collection of patents, a year after slapping Facebook with a similar lawsuit.  


Disney Weighs Distribution Deals for Streaming Service

As Disney nears an April public unveiling of its Disney+ streaming services for Wall Street analysts, some key questions—including whether to distribute through U.S. cable operators or companies like Apple—are still being hammered out.

One worry is whether the service will work well from a technical perspective. With that in mind, some insiders say Disney may test Disney+ in the Netherlands at some point before it launches formally in the U.S. at the end of the year, say people familiar with Disney’s plans. The Netherlands test would be an attempt to iron out any kinks in the service before it is released to intense scrutiny for an American audience.


Kleiner Perkins Expected to Lead Investment in Rippling

Venture capitalists pressured Parker Conrad to step down from his health insurance startup, Zenefits, after the company was found to have skirted insurance regulations. Now, three years later, Mr. Conrad is going back to them for funding for his new company, Rippling.  

The Silicon Valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins is expected to be the lead investor in a new round of funding for Rippling, which competes against Zenefits with software for managing employee health insurance, payroll and other human resources functions, according to four people briefed on the matter. Mr. Conrad has discussed raising at least $30 million in a round that would value Rippling between $200 million and $300 million, said three of those people. But the amount of funding Rippling ends up raising hasn’t been determined yet and could be higher, two people said.


The Big Interview: Mozilla Plans New Products to Capitalize on Tech Stumbles

Under Chief Executive Chris Beard, Mozilla Corporation has fashioned itself as the anti-Facebook browser company, publicly defending individual privacy rights as technology companies struggle with data scandals. But while the strategy has lifted Mozilla’s profile, it hasn’t significantly boosted revenue or helped the firm reclaim lost market share for its crucial web browser business.

Mr. Beard isn’t giving up. Instead, he’s hoping public anger—especially at Facebook—over persistent online data scandals will push more customers to adopt Mozilla’s privacy-protecting internet tools, including its flagship Firefox web browser and the newly launched Facebook Container, which stops the social network from tracking anyone who uses it as they navigate the web.


10 Questions Lyft Investors Should Ask

As Lyft sets the stage to go public, a major question hanging over the company is how it will fare under constant pressure from its bigger rival Uber. Beyond that, there are many unknowns surrounding the costs of recruiting drivers, its efforts in autonomous vehicles and the future of its electric scooter and bike businesses.

The company’s public offering document, disclosed on Friday, showed improved cost controls amid sharp growth in revenue as well as other financial trends that bode well for the IPO. Lyft’s co-founders are expected to speak to potential IPO investors later this month, with its public market debut coming after that. The company hopes to be valued at between $20 billion and $25 billion, although its fourth quarter revenue growth suggests it may come in a little above that range. Here are 10 critical questions that investors should ask in order to understand the health of the business.


Crypto Startup Circle Seeking $250 Million in New Funding

Circle, one of the biggest cryptocurrency startups in the U.S., is seeking to raise about $250 million in a combination of equity and debt, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans. If it succeeds, Circle would be the latest in a series of cryptocurrency firms to raise money as they grapple with the impact of the crash in the price of bitcoin.

Circle runs a cryptocurrency exchange, Poloniex, used by individual and institutional investors, and an institutional trading operation called Circle Trade. It has raised $246 million to date from investors that include Goldman Sachs, Baidu of China and IDG Capital. Circle was reportedly valued at nearly $3 billion last year although the valuation sought in the latest funding round couldn’t be learned.


What’s Future of Internet?

What is the future of the internet?

Should it be open or closed? Free-ranging content or curated? These questions, which go to the very heart of the internet and tech business models, creep into the zeitgeist whenever there’s a scandal involving a major internet company.


Lyft’s Numbers Point to Potential $26 Billion IPO Valuation

U.S. ride-hailing firm Lyft appears set to surpass its sought-after IPO valuation range of $20 billion to $25 billion, based on our analysis of its IPO filing on Friday. It could be valued at between $26 billion and $28 billion, given the company’s robust revenue growth in the fourth quarter. (See related article here.)

That’s good news for Lyft’s early investors who put money in at valuations ranging from several million dollars to its most recent private fundraising at a $15 billion valuation. Among the investors likely to do well are: General Motors, whose $500 million investment in 2016 could be worth more than $2 billion once the company goes public; Japan-based commerce firm Rakuten, which invested more than $700 million since 2015, a stake that could be worth more than $3 billion post-IPO. Stakes held by Alphabet, which put in $500 million roughly a year ago, and Andreessen Horowitz, which invested $60 million in 2013, could be worth $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively.


The Information’s 411 — David Leaving and Richard Plexit

Jessica Toonkel talks about the huge day at WarnerMedia where two top executives left, as new owner AT&T undertakes a restructuring. Kevin explains the reasons that companies have major cost overages with cloud providers.


Page created: Fri, Mar 08, 2019 - 09:00 PM GMT